Gender in the gym

It's not every day you attend a tradeshow where business casual attire has been traded in for headbands and bike shorts, and you see more than a handful of people walking the floor in Vibram FiveFingers. Such is the atmosphere at the Club Industry Show 2011, touted as offering "the largest selection of products and services from the world's leading fitness suppliers."

Personal trainers rub ultra-toned shoulders with elliptical machine makers. Everywhere you turn, there's a chance to sample liquid egg whites or muscle-recovering cherry juice, an opportunity to try the newest monkey bar fitness routine or crank out a quick Spin class.

I tried out a few cool new products, like the Kamagon Ball, a water-filled medicine ball whose sloshing requires you to activate multiple core muscles (mixed martial artist Brenton Robinson was on hand to demo). But what struck me more than the jungle of shiny new fitness equipment was all of the men.

No matter where I looked, I was visually swarmed with pecs rippling through polo shirts. Hordes of stocky, 5-foot-8 men whose arms floated slightly away from their torsos bumped fists and snacked on Chobani. The smell of testosterone was mixed with the gritty scent of protein powder. It appeared as if a buzz cut were mandatory for entrance to the expo.

But where were the ladies? After all, women outpace men when it comes to purchasing fitness equipment and 57 percent of new health club memberships in 2010 were purchased by women. Yet, I only saw a handful of us -- and most were Spandex-clad, demo-ing Stairmasters and kettlebells. I hairy eyeballed one tarted-up little hussy wearing a belly shirt slit to her sternum, strolling on a souped-up, violet-hued treadmill in an effort to lure more men over.

So basically, even though we're the ones flocking to the gym, men are responsible for making the major purchasing decisions, leaving us to dress up in our sexy gym rat Halloween costumes. What, do we not bleed Barney Butter like everyone else?

Women -- not Mel Gibson -- know what women want. We know what benches feel better when we're lying face down, boobs squished against the padding as we kick back our hamstrings. We know we do not want to face the middle of the weight room when using the adductor machine at the risk of revealing our personal bikini wax style to the guy wearing construction boots and mowing a Snickers between sets. We know what kind of razors and deodorant we'd rather have in the locker room. We know encasing a set of dumbbells in neon pink plastic will not make us want to lift them more -- in fact, it's patronizing and rather insulting.

Let us make some decisions, instead of relegating us to the role of eye candy, and you'll see your gym membership numbers soar.

espnW columnist Leslie Goldman is a die-hard workout junkie who covers health and fitness for many popular women's magazines and is the author of "Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image and Re-imagining the 'Perfect' Body." Full disclosure: Her high school athletic experience was limited to sophomore-year color guard.

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